The US press seems to have decided that the Occupy movement is no longer a story. Pretty much no matter what we do. In New York, on May Day, something between 50,000 and 100,000 people marched through the streets – we don’t know the exact numbers because most papers didn’t report the event at all, and therefore, didn’t bother to make estimates. In California, there were blockades and walkouts. In Seattle, one band of protestors relived the famous Black Bloc actions of November 1999, smashing many of the same corporate windows – and even that didn’t make national news!
But in a way it hardly matters. Occupy is shedding its liberal accretions and rapidly turning into something with much deeper roots, creating alliances that promise to transform the very notion of revolutionary politics in America.
During the first two months of the occupation, camps emerged in every city in America, there was an explosion of press attention, and, at the same time, a vast influx of money (at one point, OWS in New York was sitting on over $0.5m, almost all of it from donations of under $100 each). Those months also saw a veritable invasion from liberal groups, ranging from Rebuild the Dream to MoveOn.org. Before long, occupiers realized the help was threatening to destroy them; meetings became bureaucratized as they turned into endless squabbles about money; paid organizers with agendas often very different than the original occupiers were infiltrating and trying to turn the movement towards much more conventional political or electoral campaigns.
Then came the evictions.
There is a traditional terms of alliance between liberals and radicals in American social movements: through civil disobedience and direct action, the radicals create a fire on the liberals’ left that makes them seem relevant as a moderate alternative; the liberals keep us out of jail. In this case, the liberals spectacularly failed.
Over the winter, rather than making an issue of the extraordinary illegal violence of the evictions, they chose, instead, to create an almost histrionic moral crisis over a few broken windows in Oakland months before. But when OWS re-emerged in the spring, the abandonment of the liberals, the drying-up of the money, have become an almost miraculous blessing. Activists have honed and polished their street tactics and democratic process. New alliances have been created, with community groups, immigrant rights organizations, and, increasingly, labor unions.
One reason OWS agreed to forgo mass civil disobedience in New York on 1 May was to solidify those alliances. Instead, occupiers working within the coalition pushed – with the boisterous support of many rank and file, despite the initial hesitation of some union leadership – for a joint solidarity statement that called not just for the usual battle against austerity, but to the revolutionary transformation of society …